14:00 . Being a journalist in Brussels became somewhat difficult. All the accusations of fake news, the rise of populism and the ideas it brings, the hate speech we get at times.
I don’t want to use the word ‘victim’: I am not a victim because at the end of the day I chose this job for myself, but the consequences that come with it do affect me. They affect all of us correspondents here.
From the outset, I knew that I’d need a thick skin, but what surprises me is that paradoxically, in my current task where I am simply reporting on European politics, I am facing more intimidation and harassment than I was facing ten years ago as an investigative journalist in the UK. Being a TV journalist, my face is directly exposed. I know there are people in Poland who look at me thinking ‘ugh, it’s her again with news we don’t want to hear’ or ‘news we don’t even believe in’.
For the eurosceptics and the populists, which are now numerous, the EU is ‘the enemy’. So, following this line of thought, we journalists in Brussels work for the enemy.
We simply deliver news: we say the European Parliament has voted this and that, or the European Commission has decided this – but as soon as the news are not favorable for politicians back in member states or for eurosceptics, we come under fire. and the attacks are often personal, as the so-called trolls don’t really have valid arguments against us so they end up attacking us personally.
Maybe we are to blame as well, for reporting news that don’t come across as they should. But hey – news from Brussels are very difficult to explain to people. Almost 80% of what we report is linked to legislation, or rather technical topics and that is challenging to translate in simple words. I sometimes jokingly tell my husband that my job consists of explaining the EU to a ‘grandmother cooking potatoes at home’.
Also, because we are now so easily demonized by our attackers, even our sources now stop to trust us ! It was way easier ten years ago to contact politicians and get information from them than it is today.
I still love my job. I love to inform people, and for that Brussels is the best place to be. It is here that 80% of EU legislation is decided, laws that impact millions of people; Brussels is a mine of news. Of course this also means that we hold huge responsibility in our reporting;
When I prepare stories about current ‘conflict’ between the Polish government and the European Commission concerning the rule of law, I am weighing every single word and I think more than twice before I say that the Commission is “warning” Poland. Because although the word “warning” is not directly linked to being a “threat”, it could be interpreted as such. This added to the fact that eurosceptics perpetrate ideas such as that “Poland does not benefit financially from the EU, or that Poland is giving too much money to the EU’’… When I arrived to Brussels, four years after Poland had joined the EU, the stories from Brussels were quite positive: my country was showed as “primus inter pares” to other new comers, Jerzy Buzek was elected the European Parliament president, millions for Poland were negotiated in the EU Budget, and eventually Tusk was elected at the head of the Council, yet now, the majority of stories concerning Poland and the EU are not very positive… making me the “bad messenger”.
Hey – this is like in the Bible – the seven fat years with lots of good news for Poland and then the seven thin years that are happening now – with negative news for Poland coming from Brussels – because the current government is in conflict with the EU. But hey – don’t shoot the messenger.
Dorota is a journalist from Poland, covering EU affairs in Brussels, Belgium.